How not to quit smoking – book excerpt

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Have nails, need coffin

If I can cope with tough situations without a cigarette, and I get used to that early on, then I can cope with just about anything. Can, will.

If I gave up whilst life was easy and stress free, I might find it easier. I might find it easier to take a step back, take a deep breath. Take a moment. Keep focussed. I’m calm, I just need a cigarette.

I might go a month. A month smoke-free. Life is still low key and low on stress.

What happens when stress comes out of the blue?

What happens when something I wasn’t expecting comes up and bites me on the arse?

What happens when everything hurtles into my life at once and leaves me clinging to my sanity by my fingertips?

I’ll remember how smoking used to help with stress.

I might be an ex-smoker. But just one won’t hurt. One to cope with the stress.

I’ve never had to cope with real stress without a cigarette before.

I take a puff on my friend’s smoke.

I later decide I want more. I apologetically ask a stranger on the street for a cigarette, trying not to wither with guilt and embarrassment as he begrudgingly opens his packet of Marlboro Lights. Not my favourite, but any brand will do right now.

I get home. All evening I’m losing my mind. Cigarettes. Smoke. I want to smoke a ****ing cigarette.

It’ll just be the one packet, I tell myself as I head down the shop. I won’t tell anyone. Just this one, I’ll smoke them slowly, then I’ll give up again. No one needs to know I faltered, had this delightful little moment of weakness. It’ll be my guilty secret. I’ll be smoke free again as soon as this packet is gone.

By the next evening I’ve finished, or am close to finishing, the packet. I’m an addict once more. I’m angry with myself, I’m feeling guilty. I feel worthless for not being able to keep it up. People know I’m smoking again. They smelt it on me. They are disappointed. ‘I mean, it’s your life man, but you were doing so well…’

I’m upset now.

So I buy another packet of cigarettes.

I’m a smoker again.

I’m an addict.

And I’ve been ever since I took that one puff on my friend’s cigarette to chill out.